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Employer Entitled to Time Before Determining Reasonable Accommodation

Melissa Brumley worked as a “sorter” of mail for United Parcel Service in a Tennessee warehouse. As part of her job, she was responsible for packages weighing 10 pounds or less and moving them from the conveyor belt. Additionally, she had to pick up bags filled with the packages that weighed at least 20 to 50 pounds (and up to 70), placing those on another belt for delivery. While Ms. Brumley never did have to pick up 70 pounds, she admittedly knew that it was possible and it was part of her written job description. In 2015, Ms. Brumley injured her back while working. She then went out on disability for approximately six months.
Ms. Brumley returned to work with medical notes limiting her lifting to 30 pounds. The supervisor refused to allow her return because both of her position required lifting. To engage in the interactive process required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and consider possible accommodation, UPS sent her a request for two medical forms, one filled out by her doctor and one by her. After some delay, she responded. UPS’s HR met with her, said they would review her restrictions and try to find a position for her. Instead, Ms. Brumley voluntarily withdrew from the process and was able to return to work a few weeks later without restrictions. Ms. Brumley then filed suit alleging violation of the ADA.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment on her claims. Ms. Brumley could not show that UPS was unwilling to accommodate her restrictions and she voluntarily withdrew from the interactive process. “The ADA does not obligate employers to make on-the-spot accommodations of the employee’s choosing,” and thus UPS was not required to return her to her position as a sorter immediately upon her return. Employers are required to engage in the process to identify precise limitations and then explore potential reasonable accommodations. Ms. Brumley could have proceeded with the process and instead had her restrictions removed. Summary judgment was appropriate because of a lack of evidence that UPS had failed to comply with its obligations under the ADA.